Q. Do dogs suffer dementia? How can I tell if my dog has it?
A. Dogs can indeed suffer from what is called Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, or dementia. The disease is similar to early Alzheimer’s in people.
The typical signs are increased anxiety, behavioral changes (sometimes increased aggression), disorientation, dullness, staring into space, losing track of where they are, seeming confused and wandering — in other words, symptoms that indicate the brain is not working at capacity.
The way the disease works is not quite clear, but it does seem to be related to a buildup of plaque in the brain, degeneration of brain cells and brain size, changes in neurotransmitters, and/or micro-bleeds in the brain.
Again, this is similar to various kinds of dementia in humans. There are a number of other diseases that can cause the same signs — including chronic pain — so an examination is indicated before starting any treatments.
The good news is that there are some treatment options to decrease the effect of dementia and sometimes improve brain function.
Prescription medications such as SAM-e and selegiline can help patients with CDS, as well as alternative supplements such as gingko biloba, resveratrol and curcumin.
A trip to the vet will help determine the best course of treatment.
As with people, stimulating the brain can help their brain function and quality of life. Take your dog out for a walk, provide them with interesting chew toys (a stuffed Kong?), play with them. It’s not Sudoku but your dog will love it anyway!
Grass Valley Veterinary Hospital’s Mace Dekker, DVM, will answer questions regarding pets each month in the Vet Tips. Have a question? Submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org, attention Dr. Dekker.